FFT or *effing* First Time
I have been a professional life coach for the last 2 years but I have been coaching people for much longer than that, about 20 years as a leader of teams for some multinational organizations. A few years ago I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go in next and as I was working on answering that question (with my coach at the time) I recognized that my favorite part of being a leader was my interaction with my team members. I was passionate about that part of my job where I could collaborate with folks to help them grow in their lives. My experience of leading others started long before my corporate gig, I have always been drawn to being of service to others. It was part of my upbringing and was something that my parents instilled in me at an young age.
Early on as I was learning how to lead people I did what most managers do and I helped guide and mentor people from a company perspective. I have always been an unconventional manager, when I think back to the early days I wonder how I wasn't fired. I don't know if the manager I am now would hire the manager I was then. I laugh a little when I think back to those days. It's easy to look back and see the building blocks of someone who was learning to be a leader of people without any knowledge of how to do it. I lucked into a formal manager role since my individual contributor role was being phased out and there was a need for a new manager role so that's how it all began.
I didn't receive a manual of how to do it though, I had to figure it out along the way. I made a lot of mistakes…a lot! Why? Because it was FFT, my fucking first time doing it. What I didn't know at the time was that it was okay to fail, in fact that is how people have been innovating for all time. When Thomas Edison was inventing the light bulb, he was famously asked how it felt to have failed so many times - to which he replied: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. That is how it is with new endeavors by and large. It's not often that we can go into something new and excel from day one. It is an iterative, or problem solving approach, one of trial and error and of failure. But something that is not often talked about is the expectation to fail. Failing is seen from a lens of negativity. So many of us think that if we fail at something we are then a failure but that is simply not true. Failing is good, where it takes a bad turn is quitting after our failures.
In my experience there are some keys to succeeding when we are faced with new moments of FFT. The first thing is to embrace the failure. Dance with it, give it a big hug and say thank you, celebrate it and see the beauty of failure. Then learn through iteration so that we can learn from our mistakes in order to change and improve. Greet failure with grace. Don't be hard on yourself and dwell on the failure, that can lead to some sleepless nights, unfocused days and plenty of stress. Grace gives you the permission to let go of the emotion around failure, it provides space for acceptance. Give yourself grace but then put action into place to dust yourself off and start again. We start with embracing failure, we give ourselves grace and the next key is mindset. When we are in a new space, faced with massive feelings of FFT it's best to have an agile mindset. It is a thought process that involves understanding, collaboration, learning and being nimble when navigating through whatever is in front of us.
This is what I'm doing right now. Over the last two months I've jumped into the life of a podcast content creator. I'm knee deep in FFT, and it's the theme of my first episode. My wife and I had friends tell us many years ago that if you wait until you're ready to have children you'll never get there. We don't have any kids but this podcast has become my baby. I've been thinking about a show for about 3 years but felt I wasn't ready, that I didn’t have the knowledge that I felt was required in order to try my hand at it.
If we are waiting for the right time to do “that thing”, waiting for the perfect time or to be an expert and not just jumping in and doing it then we will miss out on what we want. I took inspiration from a friend who was out not just chasing his dream but living full on in his passion and I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone and just do it. Some days that voice in my head is a little too loud especially as the equipment started coming in and there was one problem after another. Deciding to create a podcast was by far the easy part of the process, I was blown away with everything else that goes into it.
As I said, I have been thinking about a podcast for years. I already had the name picked out: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives and much of the concept. Once I made the decision to create a podcast I got into my jam…research. Well, the very first thing I found out was that my title was already taken…now what? Back to the beginning. In the end, I landed on a better name (Beyond Judgment - Celebrating the Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People).
I dove into what is needed to start a basic podcast and branched out from there. I was so proud when I was able to construct a studio for $350, and I'm not sure how I missed it, but I didn't order an interface or a mixer, critical pieces of production equipment. So my $350 investment rose to $1000 but I'm very happy with the result. It didn't feel good at the time but I nimbly moved from one path to another…mindset.
I decided on the RodeCaster Pro 2 for the mixing board. There is a lot under the hood of the device that I'm not using right now but the versatility that comes with this plug and play device will be beneficial in the long run. I've also cycled through bouts of high FFT emotion riding the roller coaster of highs as I created bumper music to dips and feelings of nausea when something that worked the night before wasn't working the next day and YouTube or Reddit wasn't filling the knowledge gap.
Breathing, that's what saves me when I get super frustrated. Long deep breaths. When we are in times of stress a great strategy is to relax the vagus nerve; this nerve can be your secret weapon in fighting stress. The Vagus Nerve is the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. All it takes is 3 simple steps - begin by breathing in slowly and deeply through the belly and then exhale twice as long as your inhale (4 breaths in, 8 breaths out for example).
I'm always on the lookout for deals so as I researched 3rd party vendors for podcast hosting or remote interview recording I took special note of their free trial periods. I was under the impression that I could hang out in free trial land for 3 months prior to committing cold hard cash to the endeavor and since I'm self funding this enterprise saving some coin was extra nice. Or at least it would have been had everything worked out as planned. Those extended trail periods are saved for those that commit to an annual plan which is not the cash outlay I was looking for from the jump…FFT. I still found some coupon codes and saved some money but not what I had first envisioned.
The message to myself has been that I expect to make mistakes but I'm going to fail forward, iterate, learn by doing, and acknowledge that it is my Fucking First Time and it will be just fine. Courage plays an important part when we start something new. It means that we are willing to take a risk, to take a leap of faith without knowing the final outcome and when we do take that step we move from observer to active participant, to being in the arena. No matter what happens we will gain valuable lessons and opportunities for growth.
Mindset is a powerful tool whether trying something for the first time or continuing in our pursuit of a goal. Carol Dweck developed the theory of the growth mindset in 2015 saying "In a growth mindset people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work - brains and talent are just the starting point."
Looking to cultivate the courage to fail? Try these steps:
Reframe your thinking: Instead of seeing failure as something negative, take a page from Thomas Edison and see it as an opportunity to learn
Focus on the process: Instead of being preoccupied with the outcome, keep in mind the journey over the destination, take satisfaction from the work and stay focused on the steps successfully taken to reach your goal
Build community: Surround yourself with supportive people who will encourage and motivate you, and who can help you reframe failure into what it actually is, a learning opportunity
Self-reflection: Take the time to reflect on your missteps and identify how you can learn from them. This will help build your resiliency muscle and improve your chances of turning a failure into a success
Remember failing at something doesn't make you a failure and that having the courage to fail is not about being fearless but rather about being brave enough to takes risks when the outcome is uncertain.